Saturday, January 12, 2013

'Let's have some fun with joysticks'

What does it say about me that the first thing I noticed about the following illustration is that the half-naked guy who I assume is supposed to serve as its focal point is playing what appears to be a PSone (one of my all-time favorite consoles)?

Of course, the guy in question isn't exactly "my type," so maybe that has something to do with it.

I discovered this image while perusing one of my favorite tumblrs, by the way--with that tumblr being Games With Boys.

Did you know that Justin Difazzio, aka the regular commenter formerly known as viewtifuljustin, is the proprietor of Games With Boys? Well, you do now.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Manual Stimulation: Door Door (Famicom)

Considering this game's outer packaging is about as colorful as it gets for Nintendo's Famicom, you might think its instruction manual is similarly vibrant, right?

Well, guess again. I have a feeling that has less to do with the powers that be at Enix being cheapskates, though, than it does with Door Door being the company's debut release for the system that North Americans know as the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Still, this adorable platformer-puzzler's manual is worth a look due to its smattering of precious illustrations.

No such drawings can be found on the manual's first few pages, unfortunately, although the cover image thankfully doesn't disappoint.

A black-and-white screenshot pops up on the sixth page, but I'm guessing most of you won't find that too thrilling. (Don't worry, I'm also not impressed.)

Finally! Here are the drawings for which we've been waiting, Are they the most amazing things ever? Not really, although I do think they're pretty darn cute.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bye-bye, backlog

My blogging friend and podcasting cohort, Anne (aka apricotsushi), recently mentioned on Twitter that her husband challenged her to pick one game from her backlog each month this year and play it through to completion.

Considering the depressing size of my own gaming backlog, I thought it might be wise of me to do something similar over the next 12 months.

So, between now and the end of 2013 I'm going to choose one of my many woefully overlooked games and play it for an entire month. If I'm able to "beat" any or all of these games, great, but if not, that's OK, too.

As of now, here are the games I'm considering tackling as I work my way through this so-called challenge: Chulip (PS2), Corpse Party (PSP), Deadly Premonition (Xbox 360), Dewy's Adventure (Wii), Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (DS), Half-Minute Hero (PSP), Inazuma Eleven (DS), Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits (DS), Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (3DS), Romancing SaGa (PS2), Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube) and, finally, Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii).

Full disclosure: as some of you are likely aware, I've already started a few of these games (namely, Corpse PartyDeadly Premonition, Dewy's Adventure and Xenoblade Chronicles). None of them were played for more than a few hours, though, so I think it's OK to include them here.

Also, know that the list above is not in any way set in stone. Well, other than Chulip, which I've already decided will be the game I'll tackle this month. OK, so Corpse PartyDeadly Premonition and Xenoblade Chronicles should be considered "sure bets," too, but the rest are just possibilities at the moment. (For instance, already I'm thinking of replacing, say, Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits with another PS2 title I've been meaning to play for ages, La Pucelle: Tactics.)

I'm not yet sure how I'll update all of you in regards to my progress, by the way. Maybe I should try to publish weekly blog posts (titled something like, "Bye-Bye Backlog Diary Entry #1: Chulip") to keep myself in check?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

So, what do you think of Pokémon X/Y?

Anyone who's even a smidge interested in Nintendo's Pokémon series woke up to a semi-surprise yesterday (no, not that kind of surprise)--with that surprise being the announcement of a new pair of mainline games known as Pokémon X and Pokémon Y.

The most interesting and relevant details that were revealed about these 3DS-based Pokémon titles during the latest Nintendo Direct broadcast:

* Everything in the game--including characters and environments--appears to be rendered using polygons. In other words: so long, sprites, and hello, fully three-dimensional towns, fields and battles.

* Three new starters will be made available to folks who decide to pick up and play copies of Pokémon X or Y: Chespin (grass), Fennekin (fire) and Froakie (water).

* Two new "legendaries" will make their debut in these titles, too--one of which is some sort of stag and the other of which is a bird.

* For the first time ever, these Pokémon games will be released in Australia, Europe, Japan and North America simultaneously (this coming October).

Given all of the above, what do I think of this announcement? I'm intrigued, no question. Although I wasn't exactly blown away by the first few seconds of gameplay footage shown during the Nintendo Direct broadcast, once the action switched to the title's battle sequences I was suitably impressed.

As such, the main questions that are now bouncing around in my mind are: which version do I buy, and which starter do I select? (At the moment, I'm thinking I'll go with Y and with Fennekin, but don't quote me on that.)

Speaking of questions: how do all of you feel about Pokémon X and Y? Are you excited about them or not? And are you planning to pick up one version or the other (or even both) upon their release?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Great Gaymathon Review #63: Animal Crossing (GameCube)

Game: Animal Crossing
Genre: Life Simulation
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
System: GameCube
Release date: 2002

Given how much time I've put into the first--the first to be released in North America, anyway--Animal Crossing title, you'd think I would've reviewed it by now. One of the main reasons for this inexplicable delay: I wasn't at all sure how to explain to readers why I adore this "life simulation" as much as I do. In part, that's because I probably shouldn't adore, or even enjoy, this "game"--which basically consists of having players run errands (usually in the form of fetching or delivering packages) for their anthropomorphic animal neighbors and otherwise busy themselves.

Sounds boring, right? Well, it isn't--or at least most of it isn't. Yes, the fetching and delivering of packages can be trying, but even that aspect has some appeal thanks to the game's brilliantly witty (and snarky!) dialogue. Where Animal Crossing really shines, though, is in those "other" activities that are made available to players. Among them: catching insects and fish, digging up fossils, decorating your house, designing clothes, planting flowers and even playing classic NES games.

(All of these endeavors are accomplished in real time, by the way, thanks to the fact that the game is synched with the GameCube's internal clock and calendar. In practice, that means that if you decide to boot it up at, say, 8 am on Friday, Jan. 11, it will be the same day and time when you arrive in your Animal Crossing town. Also, the game's environment reflects the time of day and the time of year--so, it gets dark at night, it snows in winter and cherry blossoms appear on trees in the spring.)

None of the above-mentioned tasks are particularly deep or involved, nor do they take much time to complete, but all are implemented in such a way that, when tackled, feel fun rather than tedious.

That's not to say there's nothing about Animal Crossing that's, well, a bit of a chore. For instance, writing letters to your furry neighbors is OK at first--until you come to the realization that they respond negatively to 95 percent of what you write. Likewise, picking weeds in your artificial town--especially after you've spent some time away from the game--is just as thrilling (or not) as it is in real life.

Thankfully, you don't have to send letters to your neighbors, nor do you have to run errands for them or talk to them or otherwise acknowledge their existence. Sure, it may cause a few of them to move out in a huff, but that's about the worst that'll happen to you if you neglect them. You also don't have to pluck weeds or plant flowers or catch fish if you're not so inclined. In other words, it's quite literally up to you to create your own experience while playing this adorably and lovingly crafted "life sim."

Does that mean everyone can or will enjoy Animal Crossing? Of course not. Some are likely to find the lack of action and direction and goals to be completely bewildering, if not downright off-putting. Others are sure to dislike the game's aesthetics, which are bright and cute but also more than a bit rough at times. (It doesn't help that this is basically a Nintendo 64 title ported to the GameCube.) Even the soundtrack, masterfully directed (in my opinion, of course) by Kazumi Totaka, is sure to earn its share of detractors thanks to its rather subdued, subtle nature.

Oh, and then there's the fact that playing this game is a fairly solitary experience--as in, you won't be wirelessly visiting the towns of family and friends as you could if you played follow-ups Wild World (for DS), City Folk (for Wii) or New Leaf (for 3DS) instead. Personally, I'm OK with that, as for me Animal Crossing is about me interacting with my cat, dog, fox and horse buds rather than any human ones.

Should you not consider any of the above-mentioned quibbles to be deal-breakers, though, and should you be longing to escape real life and experience a second one on the proverbial small screen, you'll probably find this iteration of Animal Crossing to be a suitably entrancing diversion.

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' reviews

Monday, January 07, 2013

Five favorites: non-Hudson, non-Konami, non-Namco, non-Taito PC Engine HuCards

I know, I know--the premise of this post is completely ridiculous. Why on earth would you limit such a list rather than open it up to include all of the PC Engine's non-CD games? Because I didn't want it to include the usual suspects (you know, like Galaga '88, Gunhed, Parasol Stars and PC Genjin), that's why.

As you read through this post, by the way, please keep in mind that the games mentioned here represent a selection of my personal favorites for the system in question. In other words, I don't necessarily think they are among the PC Engine's "best," although that may be the case when it comes to one or two of them.

1. Coryoon--The good news about this Naxat-made shmup: it's one of the cutest and most colorful examples of the genre. The bad news: it'll cost you a pretty penny if you want to get your hands on a copy. As such, it's hard to recommend unless you've got deep pockets and also consider yourself a huge fan of horizontal cute 'em ups in the vein of Parodius or, especially, PC Denjin (aka Air Zonk).

2. Gekisha Boy--It's no secret that the PC Engine was home to a lot of weird games. Unfortunately, a good number of them aren't worth more than a few minutes (if that) of your time. This "action photography" title, developed by Tomcat System and published by Irem, is quite the opposite thanks to its ably drawn graphics and its unique-even-today gameplay (that tasks players with snapping photos of interesting people and events while avoiding various obstacles).

3. Hany on the Road--Speaking of weird PC Engine games, this particular HuCard belongs in the "Weird PC Engine Game" Hall of Fame should one ever be created. That's due in part to the game's protagonist, a toddling haniwa figure that looks more than a bit like an anthropomorphic condom, but it's also due to its gameplay, which appealingly recalls (while also approving upon) the platforming antics of classic quarter-munchers like Capcom's SonSon and Konami's Mr. Goemon. (For more on this game, by the way, read my "Great Gaymathon" review of it here.)

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Let's not call it a resolution: I want to start learning Japanese in 2013

I know the kind of comment in the header above is of the "duh" variety when it comes to many western gamers, but I'm going to share it here it anyway.

Also a comment of the "duh" variety: I've wanted to start learning Japanese since I was a teen. I've never done anything about that desire, though, because, well, the whole thing overwhelms me, to be completely honest.

For starters, how should I go about learning to read and write this language? Should I take a course? Should I hire a tutor? Should I invest in something like Rosetta Stone? Should I pick up some books (such as the ones mentioned here)? Should I use a website (like this one)?

Based on what I've been told and what I've read on line over the years, I'm guessing books and/or websites are the way to go, but I'm not at all sure about that. And even if they are the way to go, which books and websites should I utilize?

Another question that's been bouncing around in my head for some time: once I finally make a decision as to which method I'm going to use to teach myself Japanese, which alphabet do I start with--kanji, katakana or hiragana?

I know at least a few of you understand Japanese. If any of you would be willing to share (in the comments section below) your thoughts, recommendations and opinions on this subject, I'd greatly appreciate it!